Laughs and scares lurk in 'Hell'

It doesn't take much to scare someone these days. Just turn on the television and you can see a terrifying situation. When the economy was better, horror films were the perfect antidotes to comfortable living. With the world becoming scarier every day, what people really need now is to get away from it all. Although the previews may look scary, "Drag Me to Hell," is the perfect summer escape, close to home yet worlds away.

The film follows the story of Christine Brown (Alison Lohman) a loan officer at a bank who has everything going for her with a great job and a great boyfriend. That is until she decides to evict an old woman from her home, not knowing that the woman, despite quite obviously looking crazy, is a Gypsy who, in an act of revenge, curses her. Christine now has three days before she will be sent to hell.

Director Sam Raimi, who most know for directing the Spiderman series, returns to his "Evil Dead" roots, co-writing and directing "Hell." "Hell" may not have the iconic Bruce Campbell of "Evil Dead," but it is a solid addition to Raimi's horror legacy. Like the perfect blend of chocolate and peanut butter, "Hell" allows audiences to be both terrified and amused at the same time.

Budgets and technology have improved since "Evil Dead," yet Raimi has not forgotten how to tell a great story. You can never be sure where "Hell" is going. It takes you on a twisting roller coaster ride; just when you think you have figured it out, it turns in the opposite direction. Raimi has also not forgotten how to gross an audience out with ample blood, guts and insects to make even the strongest stomach a little queasy.

Unlike other horror films, where the good characters are almost always pure at heart, Raimi allows the characters to swim in the gray zone between good and evil. Christine seems like the perfect goodie goodie, yet it was actually her choice not to give the old woman an extension on her loan. OK, maybe banishment to hell is harsh punishment for an unsympathetic loan officer, but in today's economy ...

As Christine, Lohman does a perfect job of looking innocent in the most compromising positions, including being vomited on by a dead body. Christine doesn't change overnight into a butt-kicking demon killer; instead Lohman allows her to slowly ooze anger when needed throughout the film. After seeing Lohman's pitch-perfect performance, it is hard to imagine how Ellen Page, originally cast for the role, would have ever pulled it off. Justin Long, aka the Mac guy, brings some playful humor to his bland role as the dutiful boyfriend who despite all the craziness never stops loving Christine.

If Raimi can return with a bang to his horror roots with "Hell," maybe there is hope after all for "Spiderman 4." Let's hope it doesn't take another 22 years for Raimi to direct another horror film.

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